This week: Elbow grease; Platforming; Stonewalling;
It looks as though we are at the start of the winter rainy season. It is a damp and drizzly Saturday as I write this.
Every week I take a headline photograph for the blog. For 9 months of the year there are clear blue skies above Dol. But for around three months we have cloudy days, interspersed with sunshine.
Today is one of those cloudy days. Looking at the forecast, there could be several days of rain this week. We need it because we are more than 100 litres per square metre down on the average for this point in the year.
The car was looking a little bit dusty so I gave it a bath this week. Strictly environmentally friendly though, just using a bucket and sponge.
What does surprise me here on the island is the complete lack of things which on the mainland and indeed everywhere else are completely normal.
Looking back at the first car I bought here, my Suzuki Ignis, I think that from the very start I regarded it as a work tool.
I carried vast quantities of building materials, concrete blocks, timber, bags of cement, polystyrene insulation and innumerable screws, nuts and bolts. But I don’t think I ever really “liked” the car. It was a means of transport, hard springed (4×4 suspension), definitely hard wearing, but lacking in comfort.
Consequentially and counter to all my advanced driving training, it was seldom washed and never polished – until I wanted to sell it.
That of course meant that it could mingle unobtrusively with all the other local cars on the island. It’s narrowness also was an advantage on the island’s narrow roads.
When I put it up for sale in August, I tried to get some car polish, on the principle that if the paint work is shiny, it masks the odd imperfections…
I tried at the big supermarket. No polish. I went to Tokić, who are our auto parts dealer. They had cockpit spray, tyre-wall paint but no polish and suggested I go to the only INA petrol station on this side of the island, where they have a brand new shop.
Quite amazingly, they had no auto polish either. It does explain why local cars look like they do!
The problem with the Ignis was solved with washing it with washing up liquid, which makes plates (and car paint) shine! But I brought some Turtle wax back with me from the UK when I was there last month.
So after giving the Škoda a good bath, drying it with a real chamois leather (also not available here, so bought on eBay) my Roomster was treated to a coat of hard wax polish.
Just a little elbow grease was needed to give the paintwork a lovely lustre.
You can see that there is only just enough space to get it through the donkey entrance into my courtyard.
There is a lot of “grandstanding” going on at the moment, especially in the political world. So I thought I would create my own new word – Platforming.
Once again it is a result of my inability to cajole, coax, inveigle or otherwise persuade a builder to do the work I need doing.
My courtyard (to be) is the old courtyard between my buildings. It has just had the concrete removed, so is just sandstone and sand.
Outside my gates there are lovely old stone sets. I had hoped that these would continue under the concrete, but if there had been any, they were removed when concrete was laid in the 1950’s.
In summer the sand blows everywhere and is brought into the house on shoes and paws.
I have a number of strategically placed coconut mats but have been singularly unsuccessful in getting the felines to wipe their paws before using the cat flaps. In winter it is the same.
But with access to the building site being via the courtyard, there is no earthly point in spending money on having nice stone sets laid. They would just be driven over by the builders machinery.
I dug out the courtyard ready for the sets, so it is lower than the Konoba, which means I have a step up of 30cm to get into the store. No problem when on foot, but difficult for things like my bikes.
I need to do some work on the brakes of one of them, so decided I would build a platform above the sandy floor and make it level with the Konoba. This will make it easy to just wheel the bikes in and out “on the level”.
First stop was the nice builders merchants, Volat, in Stari Grad, to buy some concrete breeze blocks and also the timber boards.
One really useful product that you can get here is “oplata žuta”, which translates to yellow shuttering. It’s made for builders and unlike all the other timber that is available, this is well seasoned and doesn’t warp or crack. It comes in various lengths and is 27mm so over an inch thick.
Builders use it in the way that planks would be used on scaffolding in the UK. It is even pressure treated, so is waterproof. Just the sort of thing for platforming.
The courtyard is more or less level, so positioning some blocks to support the “oplata” was easy with just some minor excavation needed. Although I said I wasn’t going to use the new car to carry builders materials, I made an exception. I mean, that’s what roof racks are for isn’t it?
And before my retired colleagues throw their hands up in horror at my carrying an unsecured load (well everyone else does here!), I did strap the oplata down but had removed them before I took the photo.
I might not have completely followed the RHA Code of Practice on securing loads to the letter, but they were secured. Trust me.
With the platform down and secured, I wheeled the closest bike out. Now being on the level, a really easy task.
The last jobs were to put some securing bolts into the outside wall, so there is somewhere to secure the oplata to when they are not in use.
Finally, so the blocks go down in the same place each time I use them, I used road paint spray to mark the position on the courtyard.
This will wear away eventually, but should sever its purpose for the time being.
Stone shifting is probably a better term. Down in the orchard, where I have my architectural salvage pile, I have been clearing the bramble briars and weeds. Then I laid out the rockery retaining wall, to hold the spoil from the pond.
Work is hard so there is no point in making it more difficult than you need. When I start digging out the pond, I want to move the spoil just once, but to do that I need to have somewhere ready to back fill.
I’m doing this just by eye, making some nice aesthetic curves and with a degree of randomness. I’ve come across a big old tree root I didn’t know was there which will require the chain saw to remove too.
Once the big stones were cleared, next was the brushwood and weeds where the path will go.
This area was covered in cardboard two years ago, which has kept most of the weeds at bay. Only a few noxious perennials forced their way through to daylight.
This part of the orchard gets sun, even in winter, so it is pleasant working. I would like to press on with the pond area, so that the winter rains, which should be starting this week, will be able to fill the basin. It will save having to resort to tap water.
All the time I have been down in the orchard, I’ve had a little helper.
Gizmo is going to be a hunter. Already he chases anything and everything that moves – but hasn’t caught anything but grasshoppers so far….. NRC